“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’ And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me. Send me.'” (Isaiah 6:1-8 ESV)
If you look real closely at this story, it’s pretty strange. Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord.” And yet he says almost nothing directly about Him; Isaiah describes the temple, the angels, the altar, the coal. He talks about the smoke and the seraphim calling. It’s as if Isaiah has only peripheral vision—as if he can’t seem to focus directly on the Lord Himself, only on everything around Him.
Why? I think it’s because of God’s holiness. Isaiah’s first reaction is fear and grief. He knows that he is a sinful man; he knows he doesn’t belong in God’s presence. It’s like gazing into the sun, or standing on the rim of a great fire. God is glorious, God is holy; and we are not.
What does this word “holy” mean? It carries the idea of being set apart; special; clean and unsoiled; separated from evil. In English, it comes from the same root that gives us the words for being whole and healthy. God is all those good things, to the highest degree. How can we stand before Him?
The answer is that we can’t, unless He helps us. An angel flies to Isaiah with a coal from God’s altar, to take away his sin. You know that wasn’t the angel’s idea. God Himself commanded that. And so Isaiah was saved, forgiven, strengthened. It was the only way he could possibly answer God’s call when it came: “Here I am! Send me.”
That’s the only way we are ever going to be able to stand in God’s presence, either—or to answer His call to service. God Himself must take away our sins. And that is exactly what He did, on the altar of the cross. Jesus, our holy Savior, made Himself the purification for our sins. He took our evil from us, and clothed us with His own holiness. And He keeps doing this day by day, as we keep needing Him. He makes us holy, so we can respond with love to the holy God.
Prayer: Lord, take my sin away and give me Your gift of forgiveness and holiness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Reprinted with permission from Lutheran Hour Ministries
1. What do you think of when you hear the word “holy”?
2. John 12:41 tells us that Isaiah was seeing Jesus’ glory. Does that surprise you?
3. Where is God sending you to serve Him in your daily life?